I love coffee. I love that it is warm. I love that it is bitter because it forces me to really taste it, not like sweet things which I don’t really taste I just stuff my face while trying to figure out where and how I will get my next sweet thing. I like black coffee and coffee with milk. But coffee with real cream I think is just about one of the most precious things on the planet.
Also, I hate coffee. It makes me jittery and usually gives me the shits and I just don’t feel like my best self after I drink it.
In conclusion, sometimes I drink lots of coffee. Sometimes I drink no coffee. And it all depends on the time of year, my abilities of self-control and foresight. And who’s offering.
In late September last year I rode my bike to Rhode Island. On my second day in the morning I stopped at a diner in Riverhead, Long Island. I propped my bike outside the front window where I could see it and I walked in wearing my biking shorts, pink sweatshirt, fanny pack and helmet. I was aware that I was possibly the visibly weirdest person for miles. (There are other weird people, but they are harder to pinpoint because they are hidden inside suits and cars.)
The diner looked old-fashioned with its booths and a counter and shiny soda fountain. There were two other patrons–men wearing suits sitting in a booth discussing Trump in a way that made it obvious that they supported him. There was an old white man wearing a long apron working the floor. He took my order which was for an omelet. He asked if I wanted coffee. I didn’t really want coffee but there was something about the way he asked. I wanted to want it. I did not want to say: no coffee but I’ll take a green tea. I did not want to be the green tea person, I mean I am that person deep down but on that day in the diner I wanted to say yes to coffee because already I was different in every possible way from this man but what I wanted, for myself and for him, was some kind of sign that we were actually the same. I wanted to belong here in whatever small way I could and, the way he offered me coffee said that he wanted me to belong too.
The man brought me a big mug of coffee with cream and he brought me my omelet which I ate slowly. It had been misting all morning and it was still cloudy outside so it was nice to be inside. The man came to offer me a refill, a “warm up” he called it. And I hesitated and he smiled and then I said yes. Because he wanted to give something and I wanted to receive.
A few days later after I got to Rhode Island and then turned around to come back I stopped at a gas station in New London, Connecticut. I used the bathroom and bought a banana because it seemed polite since I had used the bathroom. Outside I sat on the curb, peeled the banana, watched cars awkwardly pull up to the pumps. An Indian man came out of the gas station and waved at me and started walking over. He asked me where I was going with all that stuff and I said New York City and he was amazed and he asked where I sleep and I said that I have a tent with me and he laughed and said he was amazed and I laughed too because I’m always so tickled when other people are tickled by me.
He asked if I wanted a coffee. No I’m okay, I said. But it’s on us it’s on us, he said beckoning me back inside the gas station. He wanted to give and I relished that a stranger wanted to give to me and I wanted to give something too but I had nothing. When I ride my bike I am a receiver which I am sometimes uncomfortable with, receiving things and not giving back. But some people, oh they are so eager to give that it is giving to receive, you know? I filled my thermos up with coffee which I carried all of the way to New Haven and my thermos—it’s so good it kept my coffee hot and I sipped it all day, bitter and warm in that slanted fall sun, and it kept me satisfied.